GROUP LEADERSHIP SKILLS refer to the ability of a leader to manage a group in a manner that ensures maximum cooperation between group members and helps each make significant contribution for the accomplishment of organizational goals and objectives. Recent studies in the field suggest that group leadership skills may differ from individual leadership but the essential core competencies probably remain the same. For this reason, let us first understand what leadership means and how crucial a role in plays in organizations today.
Fenton (1990) explains who a leader is: "Leaders stand out by being different. They question assumption and are suspicious of tradition. They seek out the truth and make decisions based on fact, not prejudice. They have a preference for innovation."
Leadership is therefore "an interactive process that influences, motivates, and elicits human potentialities in the pursuit of group goals or interests" (Sogunro, 1996, p. 31). The most damaging problem that any organization can face in this rapidly changing business world is the problem of leadership. By that we mean that when leadership is weak which in other word means that when there is no leadership present in the real sense, the company is bound to suffer and it usually heads for disaster in no time. This is because there are several factors in the company which are totally dependent upon the company's management for their success and if the firm has no valuable leadership working at the top, these factors would disintegrate which will ultimately lead to the downfall of the organization. We need to understand here that when a corporation fails, the real reason is the weak leadership in 9 out of ten cases. Rarely would an organization crumble down to pieces because of other factors. It is because while the outside factors can make a company suffer, it cannot break it of there is powerful leader present in the company. A leader by the very definition of the word is a person who has vision and who has more courage and strength than other people. He can lead the people in the right direction, but if the top management is a group of people who lack enthusiasm and vision, the firm would ultimately disintegrate.
Adrianna Kezar (2002) focuses on essential characteristics of leadership and gives her own definition of the term: "Leadership is about being open to other people's viewpoints, it is not autocratic, it is about being willing to take the time to discuss issues, and answer questions or give feedback. Also, leadership is at all levels. I have always seen a leader as a facilitator. That is simply as I can put it. I have always seen the position of leader to be in the background. What I understand as leadership is not just only a person who initiates or who is strong. I think a leader is more a person who is willing to listen to other people's opinions and does not make decisions on their own. They keep in mind the group. I think a leader is someone who is understanding. Because when we have meetings here, I can see a person that is not in charge of anything but they are a leader because of the way he/she carries himself at a meeting."
Forrester Research's Tom Pohlmann and three colleagues' surveyed 546 managers to find out what they felt were the most essential skills for effective leadership. More than 50% pointed out five skills as the most effective and which the leadership must possess in order to succeed. "These were:
Retaining talented employees
Dealing with accelerating rate of change
Setting strategic direction in the face of ambiguity" (Wharton Leadership Digest, 2001)
Leadership is therefore an extremely important factor affecting the performance of organizations all over the world. However it is now being argued that individual leadership may have something in common with group leadership but the latter needs to be studied as something different and unique since it is a vast emerging field of immense significance. What is group leadership and how it can be made effective and successful in today's extremely challenging business world is the one question everyone seems to be asking. Various previous studies and researches have tried to answer these questions with considerable success. It is in the light of these findings that new strategies have been developed specifically for group leadership and effectiveness of group leadership has become a major issue. A group doesn't necessarily refer to a team in a business setting, instead group refers to "to any collective of two or more individuals that is an 'action unit,' i.e., any unit from the dyad to a nation, that can make a collective decision committing all the members of the unit to a course of action" (Eulau, p. 1). But for the sake of convenience, we shall refer to group in a business organization.
The most important difference that sets group leadership apart from individual leadership is the fact that as noted above in individual leadership, it is the leader whose character attributes and personality make all the difference and have a deep impact on leadership effectiveness. In group-leadership, on the other hand, it is the ability of the leader to manage the group combined with the characteristics of the group itself that determine the success or failure of leadership. The leader is required to possess good negotiation skills to be able to manage conflict well, secondly he should also be well aware of the influence of group behavior and psyche on leadership skills. "Team members and team leaders need to understand group behavior. With a clear understanding of group behavior, the leader of the group can address key factors and facilitate more effective teamwork." (Barczak, 1996)
Olusegun Agboola Sogunro (1998) highlights the significance of group leadership and explains what group leadership is:
Perceptions of leadership appear to be changing. Research has shown a shift in emphasis in regard to the factors influencing leadership effectiveness in a group. Whereas early scholars focused on leaders personality characteristics as key to leadership effectiveness in group situations, today, there has been a turning toward a concern for group members' characteristics and a parallel concern for the ensuing influence on leadership behavior. The old belief that only the leader has the inherent ability to make things happen has been found wanting. Emphasis is fast shifting away from the idea that leadership effectiveness is unilaterally influenced by the leader's personality characteristics toward the notion that leadership effectiveness is bilaterally influenced by the dynamics of both the leader and the group members' personality characteristics."
Group leadership and management have become such important concerns that organizations have largely started believing that leadership is no longer a single person concept. It is true that leadership begins with the leader himself but since the role and nature of the group he manages has undergone a serious transformation in the past few decades, the entire role of leadership has also changed. Group leadership skills are now more important than single person leadership skills. The group that a leader is supposed to manage is no longer a passive group of willing followers, instead it is usually a dynamic group consisting of highly talented individuals who work in an ethically and culturally diverse environment and are more aware of their rights today than ever before. Such a dynamic and potentially volatile group cannot be made to follow the leader without a set of good and effective skills and strategies.
Relevant literature suggests that leader is now incapable of running the entire show alone (Kouzes & Posner, 1987; Rost, 1991; Clark & Clark, 1994). He needs help from his group and for this reason; he needs to understand the dynamics of group leadership. In a group, people come from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds and have different personality traits. Their beliefs, views and ideals differ from one another and this can put the leader in a very challenging situation. This is when he needs to understand some basic aspects of group leadership.
For one, he needs to pay closer attention to the influence each member can have on effectiveness of his skills and for that reason, he must equip himself with the most flexible yet effective leadership skills. Secondly he also needs to see where he stands in a group. In other words, a leader must clearly understand and define the role of each member of the group including him. Gibb (1968) feels that the leader's role in a group is "determined not by his personal qualities in the abstract but by his standing in relation to his fellow members in the special qualities required by the particular group or situation" (p. 269). His position in the group "in turn, is dependent not upon the possession of these special qualities as such, but upon the extent to which his fellow members perceive him as having these qualities" (p. 269). For this reason, leadership originates in a group "whenever its norms and structures allow the…